Rawàng Ata: Tags

Rawàng Ata makes extensive use of sentential ‘tagging’ – elements attached to the end of a sentence to indicate the illocutionary or pragmatic function of the utterance.

Rawàng Ata tags can be divided into two main kinds: indicative, which relate to truth and knowledge, and subjunctive, which relate to suggestions, desires and so forth.

Among the indicative tags, , wānìa, wāhā, wāraluìhā, māru, māruhà, ìur, iùrva,, nonìa, nomahà, nomāru, ìurno, fānìa, fāno and all indicate true and literal statements, and are used to disambiguate from exaggerations, fantasies, rumours and so on. These tags are broadly equivalent in use, though precise connotations differ, and vary between dialects and registers; many more tags are also found with this function in regional and occupational dialects – the above are only the more conservative and widely-found possibilities. Of these, the longer tags tend to indicate more ‘serious’ intent, and is the most formal; is the most common in contemporary speech, being ubiquitous. Ill-educated speech is often characterised by the over-use of .

These purely grammatical particles are also widely supplemented by nouns or pronouns in the vocative. These fall into two classes: appeals to powers and abstract concepts to validate the statement, and appeals the the interlocutor through flattery or claims to solidarity. Common examples include à fāma (‘O flood’), à luàng (‘O noble one’) and à datta (‘O sailor’).

Yuhā is a tag indicating true information that the speaker has only just discovered. It does not distinguish between information learnt first-hand and information learnt through rumour, and can also be used to suggest doubt or deniability – it may be translated as “it seems”, “apparently” or the like, although it is also used where the speaker is more sure of their information than is usual with those English translations. Fajū is a rarer and stronger alternative, particularly found in formal contexts, perhaps translatable as “it has been found”, “it has been discovered” – it does not preclude the possibility of doubt, but minimises it.

Other tags relating to doubt include , kèno, otya, otyahà, māke, and kelùi. indicates something the speaker believes true, but seeks confirmation of, while kèno is stronger, suggesting almost disbelief in a denial. English translations might be “no?” and “right?” Otya indicates the speaker’s belief but makes room for a possibility of denial, while otyahà suggests that any denial requires extraordinary evidence – perhaps English “yes?” and “surely?” might be closest. Mākè is a specialised form of /kèno, used when the assertion being made is itself in the negative – can still be used with negatives (though kèno cannot), but mākè suggests more specifically that the speaker is seeking to rule-out counterexamples. For example, datta mà sakkung kòmana, kē might be translated ‘the sailor didn’t kick the girl, did he?’ or ‘sailors don’t kick girls, do they?’, whereas datta mà sakkung kòmana, mākè might be more categorically translated ‘the sailor never once kicked the girl, did he?’ or ‘no sailors ever kick girls, do they?’ Kelùi is also a near-synonym for , but has a connotation of trying weasel out a confession: datta sakkung kòmana, kelùi suggests ‘the sailor kicked the girl, didn’t he? Come on, you can tell me!’

Five more doubt-related tags are saì, saìno, arasaì, fulì, and luiròili. Saì indicates the speaker suggesting a possibility, something they think may be true – it does not explicitly invite a denial, but also does not assert certainty. Saìno is a little stronger, suggesting a strong personal belief. Arasaì indicates a non-certain claim that nonetheless the speaker will not see denied – the speaker indicates their acceptance of the claim in question and their intent to act on that basis, and does not invite correction, though the speaker declines to present the claim as a certainty. Fulì indicates near-total uncertainty, and asks for someone to tell the speaker whether or not the claim is true; luiròili is nearly synonymous , but suggests even more strongly uncertainty and the equal possibility of truth or falsity.

Responding to these tags often involves on of nine further tags: yotà, yotamāru, yotahā, yotaluì, māluì, keràuli, lamāyodà, fādō, or wādōnìa. Yotà confirms the truth of a questioned claim; so do yotamāru and yotahā; yotaluì specifically suggests that doubting it is ridiculous. Māluì indicates the speaker does not know the answer, keràuli indicates the speaker does know the answer but doesn’t feel like giving it; lamāyodà indicates that the speaker is unsure of the answer. Lamāyodà, that is, is used where the claim may be true or false, it is unclear, and hence the speaker is not sure, whereas māluì is used where the speaker is ignorant entirely (the answer may well be obvious to those who are informed) – perhaps English “it’s hard to say” versus “I don’t know about that”. Fādō and wādōnìa both indicate that the speaker believes the claim to be false, with the latter being stronger than the former.

Finally, a further set of indicative tags are used in the context of disagreement. Lakē indicates the speaker is suggesting an alternative possibility to one previously made. Ruìbi indicates that the speaker is making a rebuttal of a prior claim. Mālakē rules out a possibility. Dīnò asserts that the claim is false, but specifically in the context of denial of an accusation. Luì concedes a point for the sake of argument. Luìmāru, luìhā and luìnō concede defeat more fully.

Turning to the subjunctive tags, four tags attempt to persuade the listener to act or to allow an action: shìli places the speaker in a subordinate position and suggests it is the duty of the listening superior to act (its use is rarely offensive and is often taken as flattery – Là expect their inferiors to be ignorant of the exact demands of duty, and ascribing duty means ascribing power); dumōy likewise suggests the inferiority of the speaker but instead appeals to the listener’s mercy or pity. Sōr instead insists on the superiority of the speaker, and informs the inferior of what they should do. Sōrnò is a stronger, more definite form of sōr.

These four tags interact with the verbal articles: they may occur with the irrealis or negative articles, in which case they are relatively indirect ways of making requests; or shìli or dumōy may occur with the imperative article, in which case shìli becomes a demand under the claims of justice and dumōy becomes a plea of desparation.

Lào indicates a command, and can be confused with sōr; however, sōr is better seen as an authoritative recommendation, against with disagreement is foolish or impertinant; lào creates an obligation by its utterance, and disagreement (if the speaker has the appropriate authority) is insubordination. Lào is always used with the imperative. Làomā indicates a prohibition of similar force when used with the prohibitive article, but can also be used with the irrealis article, in which case it loses its performative and official function and can be used regardless of rank and authority.

Vēn, used with the irrealis, indicates an invitation. It is used less frequently with the imperative, mostly in sexual or ironic (confrontational) contexts. Rinìa (used with irrealis) is cohortative, encouraging the listener to join in with something the speaker suggests they too will be doing; riniàno (ditto) encourages more strongly and stresses that speaker and listener will be collaborating. Djanò (used with imperative) makes an offer, and djanònia (ditto)makes an offer the speaker claims they can’t believe they’re making.

Finally, iòy indicates a polite refusal or decline with the imperative, or disapproval with the zero, definite or alternate, while iòjnia (with the imperative) indicates a firmer refusal and ruìbimāru (with the prohibitive) indicates a total rejection. Èlēm indicates hypothetical (with the irrealis), prior (with the definite or indefinite) or performative (with the imperative) consent.


Tags have no morphology, as they do not inflect. Tags do not form phrases. Tags always come at the end of a sentence, and there can only ever be one tag, except that in colloquial speech an affirmative like can sometimes be added following a subjunctive tag (this is frowned upon as nonsense by more conservative or formal speakers and does not occur in writing).


Throughout the above, the sentence being tagged has been regarded as a ‘claim’; however, it is important to bear in mind that tagging can be used with any valid utterance, even with a mere bare noun. The exact content of any requests, commands, questions and so forth in these cases must be determined through context. Tags may be used with indicators: aì wā (‘this? yeah…’) is a common way of agreeing. In colloquial speech, the indicator may be dropped, and people may say simply , but this is not reflected in writing.

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